Archive for July, 2009

Heading to the Middle Kingdom

July 18, 2009 1 comment

It is vacation time, so I will take a break from blogging and gaming here and head off to China and Beijing for roughly two weeks. Half of the time will be sightseeing in Beijing and surroundings, the other half will be attending FISM 2009 (only attending, not competing).

It is my 4th FISM conference, but my first time to China. So I am really looking forward to some pieces of the Middle Kingdom and its capital, including the Great Wall, the Forbidden City and of course general life in Beijing. And there will of course be lots of good magic and inspiration on the conference.

So happy gaming until next time!

Categories: MMO Games

MMO utility coding contest

July 17, 2009 Comments off

The people behind Saga of Ryzom has announced a Ryzom summer coding contest. The idea is to build interesting/smart/innovative/useful pieces of software using the Ryzom API an in that also of course generate some more interest for Saga of Ryzom. First place wins 3000 Euro (4200 USD) and 2nd and 3rd place also get monetary rewards.

The API is a web-based interface, calls are done by submitting an HTTP request with a certain URL for each API call. So the type of applications that they primarily seem to be  aiming for here are those that probably are hosted on some website and possibly with a web/HTML output to the end user.

Categories: Saga of Ryzom

Power Spectrum announcement

July 16, 2009 1 comment

Paragon Studios have provided soem more information on what the next content update for City of Heroes/Villains will contain – Issue 16: Power Spectrum.

The characer creator seem to be getting an update with a few changes, including the ability to determine the colours of the powers used. So energy blasts may not be blue:ish anymore, fire may look differently, as well as ice, psi etc. Each power can have its own primary and secondary colour.

I think it will be a safe bet that we will see a lot of pink stuff, perhaps combined with signal green and any other annoying or unorthodox combination people can think of. Scare enemies into submission by horrible colour combinations. But some will probably also use to make great colour combinations.

The power profileration also continues, so each of the archetypes seem to get some more of the other archetypes’ powersets.  Only one new powerset for dominators, which mean I won’t feel obligated to make a new one just yet.

It is also interesting to see that they will allow more tweaking of the difficulty settings for the missions – up to now mission mobs scale according to group size and difficulty level set. This will be welcome by people who have found the game to be too easy nowadays, with all the invention sets etc in place to improve characters – plus of course good team compositions.

Nice changes overall, but some people are not going to be happy if there are no new zones or perhaps revamps of old content (some of the older content would need that).

Myself, I am more bothered with that they call it a “free content update”. It is not free, far from it. I pay 65 Euro every 6 months for this game, plus extra costs for booster packs etc. Let’s be honest here instead of some kind of marketing spin.

Categories: City of Heroes

Jumping to conclusions

July 16, 2009 5 comments

So it has happened again – an MMO developer representative (in this case Jack Emmert) mentions the MT-word in the game forum and suddendly there are loads of pages with people jumping to conclusions what that will mean.

To quote Jack’s post in the Champions Online forum:

I know everyone has questions about microtransactions – what are they, how much are they, etc. I’m sorry we didn’t post something earlier; we’re really heads down in development right now. We’re going to release a WHOLE lot of information in the very near future about not just about microtransactions, but pricing in general. That said, here’s some basic principles about microtransactions to at least answer some of your concerns:

1) Microtransactions enable us to have a larger development team
2) Microtransactions are mostly aesthetic (costume pieces, pets, etc.)
3) If a microtransaction does have any sort of in game effect, then it can be also be earned in game.

I promise we’ll read this thread, note any questions, and answer them more in depth soon. Heck, I’ll try to answer the easy ones today/tomorrow/this week.

The resulting comments include all kinds of  assumptions, including the usual that people do not want to play a game where players can buy the über items or that there will be many many hours of grinding to obtain items that could be bought in the store.  It really does not matter what the comapny actually writes, as soon as the MT-word is included people just start jumping all over the place. When I checked there were more than 40 pages of comments to Jack’s post.

There was also one post which I found a bit amusing that demanded proof that the money from the microtransactions would go back into development. As if people have proof of that when they pay subscriptions, when they really do not have a clue how much of the subscription fee is actually paying for new development. Do you know how much of the money of your favourite subscription-based MMO goes back into development? Or any MMO for that matter? With public companies like NCSoft one can see how much of the total goes back to costs of development and operation, but not for specific MMOs. Others are generally not disclosing that type of information.

MMO companies that choose to use the subscription model are quite limited. They cannot set a subscription fee they would like to have if they want the safety of being able to recover the costs of developing the game in a certain timeframe and with a certain number of subscribers. The market pretty much dictates what the subscription fee must be, if there is one at all. With more MMO competition already established in the market for years what each new game has to compete with the expectations what should be there out of the gate has not really been lowered.

But if the so compaqny much as hint that they want to spread out those costs so that not everyone pays the same amount regardless of whether they are interested in all features/items or not, people lash out.

Personally I would prefer that companies have some freedom to set their own prices on their products, especially since it is not about providing a very fixed feature set to the consumers.  Subscriptions fees will stay as they are unless the market leaders decide to change it, so there is not much freedom there for new games.

At some point in the future perhaps people will not lash out as soon as the see the MT-word, but there will always be new things to jump to conclusions about.

Categories: Champions Online

Super Science and more slots

July 15, 2009 Comments off

With todays patch update for City of Heroes/Villains came also the new Super Booster package, Superscience. As with previous boosters, this is an addon that is bought separately. These booster packages contains additional costume pieces, commands, powers and other features which are not included in the standard game. Personally I think this may perhaps be the weakest of the booster packages so far, but I am still a sucker for those packages. So I bought it.

With this update they also enabled to add more mission architect slots, as they announced a week ago.  For me, creating story arcs/missions is the most fun solo activity in this game. The results may not necessarily be top notch, but I do enjoy it a lot.  So I bought a few more slots here also.

The update also happened to fix some bugs that had appeared in some story arcs of mine since Issue 15, so I was quite happy to see that it now actually seemed to work as intended.

Categories: DC Universe Online

I don’t care about the loot

July 15, 2009 7 comments

Recently I had a look at a SciFi MMO that just started its open beta. Not a big-name game, but I was curious about the setting and played around with it a little bit. It was fairly ok from the first view, although not spectacular.

But what really made me a bit sad was reading about the game on the web site. There was really no info on backstory, why people were in this setting in the first place and what perhaps could be the motivations. The only information was around, game mechanics – the kind of units you can play, type of weapons, different skills and different areas. There was no mentioning why certain areas were there.

For the mobs there were descriptions of normal, elite and boss mobs and that there were better loot and reards from bosses etc. Perhaps not all info was listed, but certainly a substantial amount.

This pretty much killed my interest. If the creators of the game just describes the game in the form of mechanics and items, why should I bother? There is not really and story or background that fills a prominent spot here. With a lot of the info in place already directly on the web site there is perhaps not much to find out and discover on your own. I can of course just ignore the info on the web site, but if this is the type of info that developers want a new player to find and look at, it is probably not a game for me.

Categories: MMO Games

Playing a gamble

July 13, 2009 1 comment

Has gambling its place in MMOs? With all online poker sites and other venues to spend your money on some combination of Lady Luck and skill it is perhaps not surprising that MMOs introduce some gambling also.

In Jade Dynasty one can buy items (Celestial Light and Dragon Mirror) from the game shop that atre essentially some lottery ticket, or rather a chance to pull the slot machine. The graphics are even of a type of slot machine display.

Gambling and getting a junk reward

Gambling and getting a junk reward

Most people are likely going for the 1st/2nd prize for each of these two, which includes a mount (Hornclop – sort of a unicorn), a unique pet (a fairy) and a Cloud Shuttle (flying/floating “mount”). As far as I know they are not available through any other means. From there it drops in value and usefulness.

Each chance at the slot machine or lottery ticket costs the equivalent of 0.75 USD. The 4th prize which the roll in the picture resulted in gives 2 portal charms (make a marker for teleportation) costs 0.15 each from the game shop – if you would have bought them at all in the first place. My guess is that most people wouldn’t.

I am not a gambler myself, so I find no interest in the prospect and I am not enticed by Lady Luck to try to win a good prize here. But there are apparently other who are; I saw posts in the Jade Dynasty forums from people who had bought various amount of “tickets” and not won 1st prize – top one was 150 of these “tickets”. But there were also people who hit the jackpot almost instantly.

But 150 of these “tickets” are more than 110 USD. That is a lot of money. And this on something which does not really have a skill element, just chance.   I cannot say that I like this introduction of gambling in the game for real money and especially for items which are not possible to obtain through other means, as far as I can tell.

Neither item is essential though. To each their own, but I think it is stupid.

Categories: Jade Dynasty

Kung-fu crafting basics – making stuff in Jade Dynasty

July 11, 2009 Comments off

As in most MMOs, Jade Dynasty has its own crafting system to make stuff. Actually it has multiple systems in place, but I am only going to cover part of it here. The part I am going to cover in this post is the basic parts that most people encounter at early levels.

Later in the game there are more options including pet crafting (i.e. the pet crafts in a workshop, not making new pets). Pets are a few topics by themselves, so that is not going to be included. Besides, none of my characters are high enough yet for that, so I have not been able to try it out (pets can craft from level 60).

This post will look at crafting of gear, i.e. weapons and armor. There are also other things that can be crafted through the same mechanics (e.g. Esper mediums), but that is also a separate topic.

In Jade Dynasty a new set of armor and weapons can be equipped every 15 levels. There is some starter gear available from level 1, but after that at level 15, 30, 45, 60 etc there is new equipment that can be used. This changes little bit close to max level as I understand it, but for the most part this is valid.

Each faction has its own set of gear at each level and there is different armor for males and females. This basically means that you can see on a character which faction and level range they are at directly, unless they chosen to hide the visuals, or have fashion outfits on top.

Left to right, top to bottom: Jadeon level 15, Skysong level 30, Lupin level 45, Vim level 15, Modo level 30

Left to right, top to bottom: Jadeon level 15, Skysong level 30, Lupin level 45, Vim level 15, Modo level 30

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Categories: Jade Dynasty

Short cuts

July 9, 2009 2 comments

I decided to just put up a post with various small notes and items all blended together.

NCSoft has announced that they are selling additional slots for Mission Architect story arcs. I would buy more slots, even though I think they are a bit pricey. But they are not available yet as far as I can see. They do not seem to have put much effort into the already defined venues of allowing people to get more story arcs slots – Developer’s Choice and Hall of Fame. The latter is depending on player votes though, but they (NCSoft/Paragon Studios) do set the rules and conditions.

Reading some forums for MMOs that are in the pure micro transaction payment model, I find some parts a bit fascinating. While the type of discussions are pretty similar to any MMO forum, the games that comparisions are made with can be quite different from when you read a subscription-based MMO forum. It is almost as if there are two quite distinct groups of MMO players which only on occasion play the same games.

What is better, story or social interaction? Looking at a few of Western MMOs they have in some cases a large focus on trying to provide some interesting combat and a related story. But the mechanics and systems in place for social interactions (guilds/clans, friend lists, party search, community oriented activities etc) are in many cases more weak. Some Eastern MMOs have more grindy and boring combat and stories in comparision, but at least some have more developed mechanics for social interactions in comparision. Is that a result of more PvP focused gameplay or more general focus on social interaction?

In City of Heroes/Villains one of my heroes (Tsu Hon, martial arts/regen scrapper) is getting close to max level. I have not played much of the high level hero-side content, but decided to follow a few of the regular story arcs there. Some of the missions provided by contacts Tina and Unai have some real head-banging qualities – I would really like to bang my head against the wall rather than play those missions. It was a relief to be able to head to Architect Entertainment for some alternative missions.

I recently reactivated an EVE Online account of mine. I have two and this time I managed to remember what my first account was. It had been deactivated January 2nd, 2004. In my mailbox I had some unread emails from late summer/autumn of 2003, my character seemed to be member of a company I did not recall joining. I have not actually started playing yet, not sure if I am going to do something with my old character or just keep him in retirement.

3 months of user created content – a view of Mission Architect

July 8, 2009 6 comments

Three months ago Paragon Studios released Issue 14 for City of Heroes/Villains, Mission Architect. The major feature in this update were the Mission Architect system which allowed players to created their own story arcs. A story arc consisted of a number of instanced missions, with a large part of the maps in the game available, most of the enemy groups and enemies were available and players could also create their own enemy groups.

And Mission Architect provided regular XP also for the missions and had its own reward system (architect tickets), similar to the merit rewards in the regular game. There has been a fair share of controversy and issues around the system, in particular due to the rampant powerlevel/farming that some players were able to create and (ab)use.

So now 3 months after the release I decided to do a follow-up on the statistics I collected a few days after the release of Issue 14. What is the state of the Mission Architect system now? The numbers will not tell the whole truth, but there may be some interesting observations.

First of all, there are over 50000 published story arcs in the system today. At the low end it would mean 16000-17000 players that have created story arcs and the high end around 50000 players. The actual number of players will likely be somewhere in between.

First piece here is to look at ratings for the story arcs.

Story Arc Ratings

Story Arc Ratings

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Categories: City of Heroes